Cryptic Studios just released their latest, and perhaps most ambitious, module for Neverwinter with Module 4: Tyranny of Dragons. We at MMORPG have made it our business to dig into this update and bring you all that there is to know. If you haven’t yet, check out our early sneak peek to see the biggest and best of what the module has to offer. Now that the content has made its way to live servers, we sat down with Chris Matz, Lead Designer on Neverwinter, to talk about the game’s explosive free new class, the Scourge Warlock. Ready to make a pact with a demon?
MMORPG: Of the many classes that have appeared in pen and paper Dungeons and Dragons, what inspired you to bring the Scourge Warlock to Neverwinter?
Chris Matz: We actually started work on the Scourge Warlock before Neverwinter launched, and it has been an ongoing work that many people on the team are passionate about. The Scourge Warlock represents something a little different from our existing classes, with a dark and dangerous element to the class. Working with and attempting to manipulate evil forces for the greater good is an interesting twist on our other classes, and the Curse mechanics and theme of the class were something that we liked as a change to the arcane magic of the Control Wizard.
MMORPG: What are the defining characteristics of the Scourge Warlock? What sets it apart from, say, the Control Wizard?
CM: Warlocks are best differentiated from other classes in that their base mechanics and interactions feed very specifically into the goal of dealing damage. Their Class Mechanic improves the damage they deal and directly modifies/empowers their spells to deal even more damage, or make the power more flexible in a damage dealing focus.
MMORPG: Could you talk a little bit about that flexibility? Is this single-target versus AOE, burst vs. build-up damage?
CM: Warlocks have a lot of different ways they interact with curse, and this makes them effective at switching between Burst and Sustained, or AoE and Single target with only minor changes to the powers they have equipped, and sometimes only by changing how they handle their curse. For example, Wraith’s Shadow is a damage over time spell that they can apply to a target. If they activate the spell a second time it a spike of damage to the target and immobilizes them. If the target is cursed, this power immobilizes and damages all foes in an AoE. A Fury build would quite likely have this power on their bar, so this gives them some flexible control and AoE even in what is primarily a single target build, all depending on how they manage their curses and cursed targets.
MMORPG: Walk us through a combat encounter with a Scourge Warlock. How has Cryptic gone about making the Warlock feel like a distinct new class versus a different take on the Wizard? I’m curious how Cryptic avoided making the Warlock feel like a re-skinned Mage, like has happened in other MMOs.
CM: Unlike their Arcane powered brethren who focus on affecting a large number of targets, the Warlock picks out several targets and curses them. He then follows up with a variety of spells meant to decimate those foes, and after this he selects new targets for his fury, applying his curse and repeating the cycle. Visually, this comes across in his animations via a more primal and aggressive feel to his attacks, as opposed to the more refined look of the Control Wizard.
MMORPG: I saw a bit of this during a preview recently. In terms of the feel of gameplay, I got the sense that the Warlock feels more explosive. Does each feat tree feel this way or are there differences?
CM: I’ll go over each spec independently.
Fury: This spec works best with sustained and ramped up damage, capitalizing on their capstone feat, Creeping Death. They make use of curse and their various sources of bonus necrotic damage to stack powerful damage over time effects on foes to overwhelm them.
Damnation: Damnation functions best with the raw burst powers, and excels at being able to use a broader variety of powers because of the Soul Puppet buffs increasing their power across the board while the Puppet is active. They also excel when using powers that consume curses because their permanent Soul Puppet can apply a Lesser Curse independent of the Warlock, making burst much easier to apply to targets.
Temptation: This is the spec that focuses on supporting allies with positioning and Life Steal driven healing. Temptation will most commonly carry solid AoE damage abilities and ones that allow the Warlock to fight close to allies or foes and get the most out of the auras he brings to the table, all while providing a steady stream of healing to allies via Soul Bonding.
MMORPG: Let’s dig into each of these specializations a little more. During our preview, Rob Overmeyer (Executive Producer) mentioned that the Warlock isn’t as much about DoT management as Warlocks in some other games. How does the use of DoTs differ from other games which focus on watching timers?
CM: Players only have one DoT they actually manage when playing the Warlock, and that is only while they choose to use the Paragon At Will “Hellish Rebuke”. While Fury applies a lot of Damage over Time effects they generally don’t have to worry about clipping them or cutting them short because the encounter powers that apply them generally have longer cooldowns than the duration of the DoTs, or they are using Creeping Death, which is designed to stack. This means that players can enjoy the flurry of damage a DoT build provides, but can still remain focused on the core gameplay of target selection for Curse and their personal positioning without having to try and watch timers as well.
MMORPG: Let’s talk about Damnation and soul puppets. Do they involve management like a pet class or do they act on their own? Does using them mean your own damage output is reduced? I would imagine that Damnation may be a good choice for players interested in leveling solo for at least part of their game time.
CM: The Soul Puppet acts autonomously, and will continue attacking targets as long as it can. Given that they are very durable and tough to kill, this means they will deal a substantial amount of damage and have a high chance of benefitting from the 100% increased damage that they can receive from repeated summoning attempts. While they are active you are substantially more powerful, depending on your feat selection. However there are far less raw damage boosts in the damnation tree because of how much of your output a Soul Puppet makes. Damnation is a very potent solo build because it allows Warlocks to more easily capitalize on Combat advantage in the levelling and other solo content, while still providing a powerful and flexible damage dealing build, as opposed to Fury’s necrotic damage focus.